I’ve been having so much fun making subway art I thought I’d give you a quick tutorial and maybe save you some of the headaches I’ve experienced trying to figure it out.
1. Gesso your canvas.
Just a light coat is fine but make sure it’s completely dry before adding the vinyl.
2. Measure your canvas, make sure the design fits, if not you can adjust to fit. Cut out your design. You can use vinyl
or even contact paper. I use the dollar store brand, just be sure it’s a dark color so you can see it through the transfer paper. Be sure to test the cutting depth, you want it to cut through the vinyl or contact paper but not the backing paper. I use a depth of 3 with a Cricut brand mat. That’s what JoAnn sells and I can buy them with a coupon.
3. Weed your design. Weeding is just removing the stuff you don’t want. I keep this on the cutting mat to do this. Start in the upper left corner and work diagonally, work slowly and make sure all the letters are staying on the backing paper.
4. Use a safety pin to remove the centers of the letters.
5. Apply the transfer paper. I use the Cricut brand, again that’s what I can buy with a coupon at JoAnn. I like the grid on it too, it makes it easier to keep things lined up. Burnish the transfer paper to the vinyl or contact paper with the popsicle stick.
6. Now carefully peel everything off the cutting mat. With the letters face down, carefully peel away the backing paper.
7. Now place the transfer paper with letters face down onto your canvas, being careful to get everything straight and evenly aligned. I use a ruler just to double check the edges are even. Now for the hardest part. Getting the vinyl to stick to the canvas. I’ve had a little trouble with this part. It helps to put a book or piece of wood under the canvas, just something to firm up the canvas so you can burnish the letters to it, burnish with a popsicle stick very aggressively. When all the letters are stuck down, carefully peel away the transfer paper. Be sure to save it, it can be used several times, just put it back on it’s backing paper and roll it up. As long as it’s still sticky it will work.
8. Again, burnish the letters to the canvas. Brush a coat of mod podge over the letters, brushing in both directions. This keeps the spray paint from bleeding under the letters.
Don’t skip this step, trust me. ;) Let it dry completely.
9. Now you want to take it outside to spray paint it. First just do a really light spray over the letters. Let it dry completely.
10. Next, spray another light coat, then another, covering all edges, allowing each coat to dry completely.
11. Now for the fun part, with a safety pin, carefully peel off the letters.
12. If you like it, coat it with one coat of mod podge to seal it. If not, any imperfections can be fixed by painting with a small brush.
I personally like them not perfect, I sand and distress most of mine,
it’s really a personal preference.
This is the best spray paint ever invented. Trust me.
And my favorite one, I love this verse for graduates.
Please check my shoppe for the cutting files, I plan to add more soon.
Canvas – Most of the ones I use are standard sizes I find at JoAnn, they are 40% every day. I think the 12×24 is around $12.00.
Gesso – available at any craft store in the paint area.
Mod Podge – This is also available at any craft store. I like the the matte finish.
Paint brushes – just cheap craft brushes for the gesso and mod podge.
contact paper – I use Cricut vinyl or Dollar Tree contact paper, try the cheap stuff first, if you can’t get it to stick, use the vinyl. JoAnn will let you use a coupon so it’s not too terribly expensive.
Transfer paper – I use the Cricut brand, it’s what JoAnn carries so I haven’t used any other. I’ve heard you can use clear contact paper for this too, I would only use it if it has the grid, I like my letters straight.
Giant safety pin – I have a dog so I don’t like to use straight pins that might get set down and roll off the table. Safety first!
Spray paint – I always use black but any color you choose, I buy Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover 2x Coverage. This is amazing paint, I paint furniture, metal, wicker, glass, anything you can imagine without drips. It’s $4.50 a can at my local Ace Hardware, shop around for the best price, I’ve seen it twice that price at a craft store. Trust me on this, it’s worth the price, it covers so much better with no drips. LOVE this paint.
Popsicle stick – or anything for burnishing.
Sandpaper – if you want to distress it.
Picture hanger – I just use sawtooth hangers that push in. These are very light so those work just fine.
I think that’s it. Pretty easy and inexpensive.
If you try it, I’d love to hear how it went for you.
I recently stopped in at a sign shop to see if they had any vinyl scraps. They gave me a piece of dark green glossy vinyl. It was slightly thicker and very shiny. It worked SO much better, the adhesive on it stuck right to the canvas the first attempt. I think it was outdoor vinyl, it was still the same brand “Oracal” that is on the back of the Cricut brand but it was thick and glossy.
Some sign shops will apparently give crafters their scraps, she told me they give theirs to schools but gave me this one piece just to try.
I don’t think I’ll be using no-name contact paper any more. I am on the hunt for discount (or free) vinyl now. I’d love to know of any sources you know of.
A few people have asked about keeping things straight, I have always used the Cricut brand transfer tape with the grid on it. The last batch I bought didn’t have the grid, it was on the paper instead, I was desperate and used it anyway and paid the price for it with a finished project than was crooked.
I have started using masking tape on the canvas, these are 1/2″ strips, (1 inch masking tape cut in half) it makes such a difference even WITH the grid. There are times that I just can’t get the transfer tape straight, once it’s stuck to the vinyl, well, it’s just stuck.